KANSAS CITY NORTH — LongHorn Steakhouse reopened its Liberty/Kansas City North restaurant nearly five months after a fire gutted the chain dining location.

Two days after Christmas in 2018, the restaurant, located at 9400 NE Barry Road, caught fire.

“When we got in here after the fire, it looked like an old barn inside rather than a restaurant,” Managing Partner Scott Weber said. “It’s come a long way.”

Four days shy of five months since the fire closed the restaurant, Weber got to cut the ceremonial lasso to open the restaurant and to honor the partnership with the Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce.

In gathering the staff for the lasso-cutting, Weber thanked the firefighters who stepped up on that cold late December day.

LongHorn is part of the Darden family of restaurants that includes nearby Olive Garden and Cheddars. Weber said the employees met at Olive Garden near the Liberty Hy-Vee to decide what to do after the blaze. Weber said some of the staff went to work at the other restaurants.

“I would say we have a huge majority of our team back,” he said. “The other managers and myself made an effort to keep in touch with them through texts and phone calls.”

The restaurant officially reopened to the public at 3 p.m., Thursday, May 23. The LongHorn, facing Missouri Highway 152, opened in 2001.

Chad Wek, chairman of the Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce, said people in the community have been waiting for the reopening.

“Seriously, the way people have been speaking, it’s cool,” he said.

Kansas City Councilwoman Heather Hall said she is pleased to see the restaurant persevere through the “horrible experience” that is a fire.

“It’s a bit like setting restart,” she said. “We are glad to see the restaurant stayed, not only to provide a restaurant option, but also great jobs. Thank you for staying the course.”

Weber said the buzz about reopening has been felt for months.

“I didn’t realize the impact we made,” he said.

Weber has been in the restaurant industry for 35 years.

“It’s about learning about customers’ families,” Weber said. “We found out that customers here were driving to Independence and the Speedway to follow their favorite leadership members and staff. I was pleasantly surprised at our impact.”

Weber said he likes being in the Northland, sandwiched among so much commercial and residential growth.

“People really don’t have to leave the area,” he said. “I believe that was the reason I wanted to be part of the chamber. It’s a great place to be.”

Weber said while the Northland has its transformation, so did the restaurant.

“I watched the warm atmosphere return,” he said. “People often say they feel like they are at home.”

During the opening event, Weber praised the community support including Hampton Inn which allowed him to set aside space for interviews.

“We have about 70 team members now,” he said. “We are making sure we are doing it right.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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